Midway through the 2019 season, a member of the New York Yankees organization assessed the laundry list of injured players, providing updates on rehabilitation schedules, the latest baseball activities for those ailing, and possible timelines for their respective returns to the lineup.
When I brought up Jacoby Ellsbury, the response was an incredulous stare.
As in: Really? There was no expectation he would play this year, and in the end, Ellsbury didn’t play much for the Yankees over the course of his seven-year, $153 million contract before his release this week. Ellsbury competed in 520 games over four seasons. He did not play in any games for the Yankees in 2018 or 2019 and won’t in 2020, the last year of the contract.
That value deficit is why Ellsbury’s deal will go down as one of the worst big-money contracts in baseball history. Using a Fangraphs search tool, Sarah Langs of MLB.com pegged the Ellsbury contract value at $63 million, so what the Yankees got in return was almost $100 million less in value. (According to the New York Post, the Yankees are filing a grievance to recoup some of the Ellsbury contract.)
What follows are some of the least productive free-agent contracts we’ve seen in baseball, among deals of at least $50 million.
Mets name Luis Rojas new manager
The New York Mets have named Luis Rojas their new manager.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen had told reporters Wednesday that the team was finalizing a multiyear deal with Rojas.
The team officially announced the move Thursday.
Rojas, 38, replaces Carlos Beltran, who parted ways with the Mets last Thursday after he was named as a key participant in the 2017 Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal.
Rojas had interviewed for the job that went to Beltran when the Mets were looking to replace Mickey Callaway, who was fired after last season.
In December 2018, Rojas was named the Mets’ quality control coach, a then-newly created role to be a conduit between the front office and the manager, consulting on “game preparation, strategy and analytics.”
Last season was his 13th with the Mets organization, and he has managed at several minor league levels for the franchise.
“He has a good finger on the pulse of this team,” Van Wagenen said.
His father is former major league player and manager Felipe Alou. Rojas’ brother, six-time All-Star Moises Alou, played his final two major league seasons for the Mets.
Rojas doesn’t have the last name Alou because when he was a minor leaguer with the Washington Nationals, the franchise asked him to change his name from Luis Alou to Luis Rojas to match his birth certificate, he told the New York Post last year. The newspaper reported that Rojas is the family name but that Felipe, Moises and his uncles used Alou, which is the surname of Rojas’ paternal grandmother.
Rojas, who was born in the Dominican Republic, played minor league ball with the Orioles, Marlins and Expos/Nationals from 2000 to 2005 but never got above rookie ball. He coached for New York in the Dominican Summer League in 2007, got his first managerial role with the Mets’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in 2011 and also coached at Class A and Double-A. Notably, he was manager at Double-A Binghamton during Pete Alonso‘s breakout 2018 season, when Alonso led the minors with 36 home runs.
Alonso and Marcus Stroman were among the Mets players to tweet their approval of the news.
Loved having Luis in ’17 and ’18 as my AA manager! It’s awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well!!! Super pumped to have him as the Jeffe. Also he throws some damn good bp #LFGM https://t.co/SI8JgLzRId
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) January 22, 2020
LUIS ROJAS! Love love love it. Loved being around him on the bench last year. Always teaching and full of knowledge. Super laid back and brings nothing but great vibes each and every day. Beyond even keel. Excited even more for the year! @Mets
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 22, 2020
Rojas was voted Best Managerial Candidate by his peers three times as a minor league manager in polling by Baseball America. Rojas also managed the Dominican team at last fall’s Premier12 Olympic qualifying event.
Astros manager AJ Hinch and Boston Red Sox skipper Alex Cora were also fired after being named in MLB’s sign-stealing report. Neither the Astros nor Red Sox have named a replacement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mets make it official, announce Luis Rojas as new manager
NEW YORK — The Mets made it official, hiring Luis Rojas as their manager to replace Carlos Beltran.
New York announced the move Thursday, a week after Beltran departed without managing a game. Rojas, who had been the Mets quality control coach, was given a multiyear contract.
“I will work tirelessly to help this team win,” Rojas said in a statement. “I believe this team and coaching staff can do special things, and I look forward to working together with everyone to reach our goals.”
Rojas became New York’s fourth manager in the past 2 1/2 years — and third in four months. He is to be introduced Friday at a Citi Field news conference.
“He has a good finger on the pulse of this particular team. He was part of it last year,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Wednesday. “He knows these guys, and he knows how to communicate to them. Every returning player on the roster has a relationship with him, and that’s valuable to us at this time.”
Beltran was let go last week as part of the fallout from the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal.
The 38-year-old Rojas is the son of former Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou and the brother of ex-big league outfielder Moises Alou, who spent his last two seasons with the Mets from 2007-08.
“Luis has grown up with baseball in his blood, as his family is part of baseball royalty,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement.
A minor league manager for eight years, Rojas has worked in the organization since 2007 but had never coached in the majors before joining Mickey Callaway’s staff last season.
“Luis earned this job. He has literally trained his whole life to be a manager,” Van Wagenen said. “He is considered one of the better in-game decision makers simply that we have in the organization.”
Rojas’ duties in the dugout as quality control coach included serving as “a conduit between the front office and coaching staff on all issues including game preparation, strategy and analytics,” according to the team’s media guide. He also was New York’s outfield coach in 2019 and led the effort in preparing hitters for opposing pitchers, Van Wagenen said.
Callaway was fired after the season, and Rojas interviewed for the vacancy before New York hired Beltran on Nov. 1. Van Wagenen said Rojas knew he was “a serious candidate” back in October.
“It’s always helpful to have familiarity,” Van Wagenen said. “The fact that he was so actively involved with the coaches this fall in preparation for spring training, in preparation for the season — he was already asserting himself more in a leadership role with this new coaching staff and helping Carlos learn some of the managerial things that he hadn’t been exposed to before.”
That played “a significant role” in the Mets choosing Rojas, according to Van Wagenen. The team decided against external options such as ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez, who interviewed for the job last fall.
“I think it’s the fit, it’s where the team is, it’s what culture we’re trying to create,” Van Wagenen said, pointing out that most of New York’s homegrown talent played for Rojas in the minors. “He’s respected by the players, he’s trusted by the players and he’s someone that we have great confidence in.”
Beltran’s tenure lasted just 2+ months and ended after Commissioner Rob Manfred singled him out last week in a report on a cheating scheme used by the Astros during their World Series championship season in 2017, when Beltran played for them.
No players were disciplined by Major League Baseball, but three days later the Mets announced Beltran was out as manager. The sides said it was a mutual decision, and Beltran apologized for his role in the scam. He said he didn’t want to be a distraction to the Mets.
Less than a week afterward, they transitioned to Rojas.
“When it came to this unfortunate circumstance, we didn’t want to change the values that we outlined for ourselves in the initial process,” Van Wagenen said. “We wanted to continue the momentum that we have with the work that’s been done in preparation for spring training, and we felt like Luis was in a position to be a leader of that group.”
Houston manager AJ Hinch and Boston skipper Alex Cora also were let go after being implicated in MLB’s sign-stealing report. Neither the Astros nor Red Sox have named replacements.
Rojas, born in the Dominican Republic, played in the minors with the Orioles, Marlins and Expos/Nationals from 2000-05 but never got above rookie ball.
He is entering his 14th season working in the Mets organization, including those eight as a minor league manager. He coached for New York in the Dominican Summer League in 2007, got his first managerial role with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in 2011 and also managed at Class A and Double-A. In the Dominican Winter League, he won a 2016 championship with the Leones del Escogido.
Notably, he was the manager at Double-A Binghamton during Pete Alonso‘s breakout 2018 season, when he led the minors with 36 home runs.
“Loved having Luis in ’17 and ’18 as my AA manager!” Alonso tweeted. “It’s awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well!!! Super pumped to have him as the Jeffe. Also he throws some damn good bp.”
Following a strong second half, New York went 86-76 last season but missed the playoffs, finishing third in the NL East behind Atlanta and World Series champion Washington.
Mariners’ Mitch Haniger likely needs core muscle surgery, GM says
Haniger suffered the injury during one of his offseason workouts earlier this week. Dipoto said the latest setback is tied to Haniger’s injury issues from last season.
Haniger missed the final 3½ months of the season after suffering a ruptured testicle and then experiencing back issues during his recovery. Haniger was limited to 63 games and batted .220 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs.
A year earlier, Haniger was an All-Star after hitting .285 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs with an OPS of .859.
Dipoto said the hope is that Haniger’s recovery will take about six to eight weeks following the surgery. He could be ready to join the major league club sometime in late April.
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